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Chapter Seven


CHAPTER SEVEN

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN--DISAPPOINTMENT--INVENTORY OF
ARTICLES BROUGHT FROM THE SHIP--DIVISION OF THE STOCK OF
BREAD--APPEARANCE OF THE INTERIOR OF THE ISLAND--A DISCOVERY--A
RAVINE AND WATERFALLS--A SLEEPLESS NIGHT--FURTHER DISCOVERIES--MY
ILLNESS--A MARQUESAN LANDSCAPE

MY curiosity had been not a little raised with regard to the
description of country we should meet on the other side of the
mountains; and I had supposed, with Toby, that immediately on
gaining the heights we should be enabled to view the large bays
of Happar and Typee reposing at our feet on one side, in the same
way that Nukuheva lay spread out below on the other.  But here we
were disappointed.  Instead of finding the mountain we had
ascended sweeping down in the opposite direction into broad and
capacious valleys, the land appeared to retain its general
elevation, only broken into a series of ridges and inter-vales
which so far as the eye could reach stretched away from us, with
their precipitous sides covered with the brightest verdure, and
waving here and there with the foliage of clumps of woodland;
among which, however, we perceived none of those trees upon whose
fruit we had relied with such certainty.

This was a most unlooked-for discovery, and one that promised to
defeat our plans altogether, for we could not think of descending
the mountain on the Nukuheva side in quest of food.  Should we
for this purpose be induced to retrace our steps, we should run
no small chance of encountering the natives, who in that case, if
they did nothing worse to us, would be certain to convey us back
to the ship for the sake of the reward in calico and trinkets,
which we had no doubt our skipper would hold out to them as an
inducement to our capture.

What was to be done?  The Dolly would not sail perhaps for ten
days, and how were we to sustain life during this period?  I
bitterly repented our improvidence in not providing ourselves, as
we easily might have done, with a supply of biscuits.  With a
rueful visage I now bethought me of the scanty handful of bread I
had stuffed into the bosom of my frock, and felt somewhat
desirous to ascertain what part of it had weathered the rather
rough usage it had experienced in ascending the mountain.  I
accordingly proposed to Toby that we should enter into a joint
examination of the various articles we had brought from the ship.

With this intent we seated ourselves upon the grass; and a little
curious to see with what kind of judgement my companion had
filled his frock--which I remarked seemed about as well lined as
my own--I requested him to commence operations by spreading out
its contents.

Thrusting his hand, then, into the bosom of this capacious
receptacle, he first brought to light about a pound of tobacco,
whose component parts still adhered together, the whole outside
being covered with soft particles of sea-bread.  Wet and
dripping, it had the appearance of having been just recovered
from the bottom of the sea.  But I paid slight attention to a
substance of so little value to us in our present situation, as
soon as I perceived the indications it gave of Toby's foresight
in laying in a supply of food for the expedition.

I eagerly inquired what quantity he had brought with him, when
rummaging once more beneath his garment, he produced a small
handful of something so soft, pulpy, and discoloured, that for a
few moments he was as much puzzled as myself to tell by what
possible instrumentality such a villainous compound had become
engendered in his bosom.  I can only describe it as a hash of
soaked bread and bits of tobacco, brought to a doughy consistency
by the united agency of perspiration and rain.  But repulsive as
it might otherwise have been, I now regarded it as an invaluable
treasure, and proceeded with great care to transfer this
paste-like mass to a large leaf which I had plucked from a bush
beside me.  Toby informed me that in the morning he had placed
two whole biscuits in his bosom, with a view of munching them,
should he feel so inclined, during our flight.  These were now
reduced to the equivocal substance which I had just placed on the
leaf.

Another dive into the frock brought to view some four or five
yards of calico print, whose tasteful pattern was rather
disfigured by the yellow stains of the tobacco with which it had
been brought in contact.  In drawing this calico slowly from his
bosom inch by inch, Toby reminded me of a juggler performing the
feat of the endless ribbon.  The next cast was a small one, being
a sailor's little 'ditty bag', containing needles, thread, and
other sewing utensils, then came a razor-case, followed by two or
three separate plugs of negro-head, which were fished up from the
bottom of the now empty receptacle.  These various matters, being
inspected, I produced the few things which I had myself brought.

As might have been anticipated from the state of my companion's
edible supplies, I found my own in a deplorable condition, and
diminished to a quantity that would not have formed half a dozen
mouthfuls for a hungry man who was partial enough to tobacco not
to mind swallowing it.  A few morsels of bread, with a fathom or
two of white cotton cloth, and several pounds of choice pigtail,
composed the extent of my possessions.

Our joint stock of miscellaneous articles were now made up into a
compact bundle, which it was agreed we should carry alternately.  
But the sorry remains of the biscuit were not to be disposed of
so summarily: the precarious circumstances in which we were
placed made us regard them as something on which very probably,
depended the fate of our adventure.  After a brief discussion, in
which we both of us expressed our resolution of not descending
into the bay until the ship's departure, I suggested to my
companion that little of it as there was, we should divide the
bread into six equal portions, each of which should be a day's
allowance for both of us.  This proposition he assented to; so I
took the silk kerchief from my neck, and cutting it with my knife
into half a dozen equal pieces, proceeded to make an exact
division.

At first, Toby with a degree of fastidiousness that seemed to me
ill-timed, was for picking out the minute particles of tobacco
with which the spongy mass was mixed; but against this proceeding
I protested, as by such an operation we must have greatly
diminished its quantity.

When the division was accomplished, we found that a day's
allowance for the two was not a great deal more than what a
table-spoon might hold.  Each separate portion we immediately
rolled up in the bit of silk prepared for it, and joining them
all together into a small package, I committed them, with solemn
injunctions of fidelity, to the custody of Toby.  For the
remainder of that day we resolved to fast, as we had been
fortified by a breakfast in the morning; and now starting again
to our feet, we looked about us for a shelter during the night,
which, from the appearance of the heavens, promised to be a dark
and tempestuous one.

There was no place near us which would in any way answer our
purpose, so turning our backs upon Nukuheva, we commenced
exploring the unknown regions which lay upon the other side of
the mountain.

In this direction, as far as our vision extended, not a sign of
life, nor anything that denoted even the transient residence of
man, could be seen.  The whole landscape seemed one unbroken
solitude, the interior of the island having apparently been
untenanted since the morning of the creation; and as we advanced
through this wilderness, our voices sounded strangely in our
ears, as though human accents had never before disturbed the
fearful silence of the place, interrupted only by the low
murmurings of distant waterfalls.

Our disappointment, however, in not finding the various fruits
with which we had intended to regale ourselves during our stay in
these wilds, was a good deal lessened by the consideration that
from this very circumstance we should be much less exposed to a
casual meeting with the savage tribes about us, who we knew
always dwelt beneath the shadows of those trees which supplied
them with food.

We wandered along, casting eager glances into every bush we
passed, until just as we had succeeded in mounting one of the
many ridges that intersected the ground, I saw in the grass
before me something like an indistinctly traced footpath, which
appeared to lead along the top of the ridge, and to descend--with
it into a deep ravine about half a mile in advance of us.

Robinson Crusoe could not have been more startled at the
footprint in the sand than we were at this unwelcome discovery.  
My first impulse was to make as rapid a retreat as possible, and
bend our steps in some other direction; but our curiosity to see
whither this path might lead, prompted us to pursue it.  So on we
went, the track becoming more and more visible the farther we
proceeded, until it conducted us to the verge of the ravine,
where it abruptly terminated.

'And so,' said Toby, peering down into the chasm, 'everyone that
travels this path takes a jump here, eh?'

'Not so,' said I, 'for I think they might manage to descend
without it; what say you,--shall we attempt the feat?'

'And what, in the name of caves and coal-holes, do you expect to
find at the bottom of that gulf but a broken neck--why it looks
blacker than our ship's hold, and the roar of those waterfalls
down there would batter one's brains to pieces.'

'Oh, no, Toby,' I exclaimed, laughing; 'but there's something to
be seen here, that's plain, or there would have been no path, and
I am resolved to find out what it is.'

'I will tell you what, my pleasant fellow,' rejoined Toby
quickly, 'if you are going to pry into everything you meet with
here that excites your curiosity, you will marvellously soon get
knocked on the head; to a dead certainty you will come bang upon
a party of these savages in the midst of your discovery-makings,
and I doubt whether such an event would particularly delight you,
just take my advice for once, and let us 'bout ship and steer in
some other direction; besides, it's getting late and we ought to
be mooring ourselves for the night.'

'That is just the thing I have been driving at,' replied I; 'and
I am thinking that this ravine will exactly answer our purpose,
for it is roomy, secluded, well watered, and may shelter us from
the weather.'

'Aye, and from sleep too, and by the same token will give us sore
throats, and rheumatisms into the bargain,' cried Toby, with
evident dislike at the idea.

'Oh, very well then, my lad,' said I, 'since you will not
accompany me, here I go alone.  You will see me in the morning;'
and advancing to the edge of the cliff upon which we had been
standing, I proceeded to lower myself down by the tangled roots
which clustered about all the crevices of the rock.  As I had
anticipated, Toby, in spite of his previous remonstrances,
followed my example, and dropping himself with the activity of a
squirrel from point to point, he quickly outstripped me and
effected a landing at the bottom before I had accomplished
two-thirds of the descent.

The sight that now greeted us was one that will ever be vividly
impressed upon my mind.  Five foaming streams, rushing through as
many gorges, and swelled and turbid by the recent rains, united
together in one mad plunge of nearly eighty feet, and fell with
wild uproar into a deep black pool scooped out of the gloomy
looking rocks that lay piled around, and thence in one collected
body dashed down a narrow sloping channel which seemed to
penetrate into the very bowels of the earth.  Overhead, vast
roots of trees hung down from the sides of the ravine dripping
with moisture, and trembling with the concussions produced by the
fall.  It was now sunset, and the feeble uncertain light that
found its way into these caverns and woody depths heightened
their strange appearance, and reminded us that in a short time we
should find ourselves in utter darkness.

As soon as I had satisfied my curiosity by gazing at this scene,
I fell to wondering how it was that what we had taken for a path
should have conducted us.to so singular a place, and began to
suspect that after all I might have been deceived in supposing it
to have been a trick formed by the islanders.  This was rather an
agreeable reflection than otherwise, for it diminished our dread
of accidentally meeting with any of them, and I came to the
conclusion that perhaps we could not have selected a more secure
hiding-place than this very spot we had so accidentally hit upon.

Toby agreed with me in this view of the matter, and we
immediately began gathering together the limbs of trees which lay
scattered about, with the view of constructing a temporary hut
for the night.  This we were obliged to build close to the foot
of the cataract, for the current of water extended very nearly to
the sides of the gorge.  The few moments of light that remained
we employed in covering our hut with a species of broad-bladed
grass that grew in every fissure of the ravine.  Our hut, if it
deserved to be called one, consisted of six or eight of the
straightest branches we could find laid obliquely against the
steep wall of rock, with their lower ends within a foot of the
stream.  Into the space thus covered over we managed to crawl,
and dispose our wearied bodies as best we could.

Shall I ever forget that horrid night!  As for poor Toby, I could
scarcely get a word out of him.  It would have been some
consolation to have heard his voice, but he lay shivering the
live-long night like a man afflicted with the palsy, with his
knees drawn up to his head, while his back was supported against
the dripping side of the rock.  During this wretched night there
seemed nothing wanting to complete the perfect misery of our
condition.  The rain descended in such torrents that our poor
shelter proved a mere mockery.  In vain did I try to elude the
incessant streams that poured upon me; by protecting one part I
only exposed another, and the water was continually finding some
new opening through which to drench us.

I have had many a ducking in the course of my life, and in
general cared little about it; but the accumulated horrors of
that night, the deathlike coldness of the place, the appalling
darkness and the dismal sense of our forlorn condition, almost
unmanned me.

It will not be doubted that the next morning we were early
risers, and as soon as I could catch the faintest glimpse of
anything like daylight I shook my companion by the arm, and told
him it was sunrise.  Poor Toby lifted up his head, and after a
moment's pause said, in a husky voice, 'Then, shipmate, my
toplights have gone out, for it appears darker now with my eyes
open that it did when they were shut.'

'Nonsense!' exclaimed I; 'You are not awake yet.'

'Awake!' roared Toby in a rage, 'awake!  You mean to insinuate
I've been asleep, do you?  It is an insult to a man to suppose he
could sleep in such an infernal place as this.'

By the time I had apologized to my friend for having misconstrued
his silence, it had become somewhat more light, and we crawled
out of our lair.  The rain had ceased, but everything around us
was dripping with moisture.  We stripped off our saturated
garments, and wrung them as dry as we could.  We contrived to
make the blood circulate in our benumbed limbs by rubbing them
vigorously with our hands; and after performing our ablutions in
the stream, and putting on our still wet clothes, we began to
think it advisable to break our long fast, it being now
twenty-four hours since we had tasted food.

Accordingly our day's ration was brought out, and seating
ourselves on a detached fragment of rock, we proceeded to discuss
it.  First we divided it into two equal portions, and carefully
rolling one of them up for our evening's repast, divided the
remainder again as equally as possible, and then drew lots for
the first choice.  I could have placed the morsel that fell to my
share upon the tip of my finger; but notwithstanding this I took
care that it should be full ten minutes before I had swallowed
the last crumb.  What a true saying it is that 'appetite
furnishes the best sauce.'  There was a flavour and a relish to
this small particle of food that under other circumstances it
would have been impossible for the most delicate viands to have
imparted.  A copious draught of the pure water which flowed at
our feet served to complete the meal, and after it we rose
sensibly refreshed, and prepared for whatever might befall us.

We now carefully examined the chasm in which we had passed the
night.  We crossed the stream, and gaining the further side of
the pool I have mentioned, discovered proofs that the spot must
have been visited by some one but a short time previous to our
arrival.  Further observation convinced us that it had been
regularly frequented, and, as we afterwards conjectured from
particular indications, for the purpose of obtaining a certain
root, from which the natives obtained a kind of ointment.

These discoveries immediately determined us to abandon a place
which had presented no inducement for us to remain, except the
promise of security; and as we looked about us for the means of
ascending again into the upper regions, we at last found a
practicable part of the rock, and half an hour's toil carried us
to the summit of the same cliff from which the preceding evening
we had descended.

I now proposed to Toby that instead of rambling about the island,
exposing ourselves to discovery at every turn, we should select
some place as our fixed abode for as long a period as our food
should hold out, build ourselves a comfortable hut, and be as
prudent and circumspect as possible.  To all this my companion
assented, and we at once set about carrying the plan into
execution.

With this view, after exploring without success a little glen
near us, we crossed several of the ridges of which I have before
spoken; and about noon found ourselves ascending a long and
gradually rising slope, but still without having discovered any
place adapted to our purpose.  Low and heavy clouds betokened an
approaching storm, and we hurried on to gain a covert in a clump
of thick bushes, which appeared to terminate the long ascent.  We
threw ourselves under the lee of these bushes, and pulling up the
long grass that grew around, covered ourselves completely with
it, and awaited the shower.

But it did not come as soon as we had expected, and before many
minutes my companion was fast asleep, and I was rapidly falling
into the same state of happy forgetfulness.  Just at this
juncture, however, down came the rain with the violence that put
all thoughts of slumber to flight.  Although in some measure
sheltered, our clothes soon became as wet as ever; this, after
all the trouble we had taken to dry them, was provoking enough:
but there was no help for it; and I recommend all adventurous
youths who abandon vessels in romantic islands during the rainy
season to provide themselves with umbrellas.

After an hour or so the shower passed away.  My companion slept
through it all, or at least appeared so to do; and now that it
was over I had not the heart to awaken him.  As I lay on my back
completely shrouded with verdure, the leafy branches drooping
over me, my limbs buried in grass, I could not avoid comparing
our situation with that of the interesting babes in the wood.  
Poor little sufferers!--no wonder their constitutions broke down
under the hardships to which they were exposed.

During the hour or two spent under the shelter of these bushes, I
began to feel symptoms which I at once attributed to the exposure
of the preceding night.  Cold shiverings and a burning fever
succeeded one another at intervals, while one of my legs was
swelled to such a degree, and pained me so acutely, that I half
suspected I had been bitten by some venomous reptile, the
congenial inhabitant of the chasm from which we had lately
emerged.  I may here remark by the way--what I subsequently
gleamed--that all the islands of Polynesia enjoy the reputation,
in common with the Hibernian isle, of being free from the
presence of any vipers; though whether Saint Patrick ever visited
them, is a question I shall not attempt to decide.

As the feverish sensation increased upon me I tossed about, still
unwilling to disturb my slumbering companion, from whose side I
removed two or three yards.  I chanced to push aside a branch,
and by so doing suddenly disclosed to my view a scene which even
now I can recall with all the vividness of the first impression.  
Had a glimpse of the gardens of Paradise been revealed to me, I
could scarcely have been more ravished with the sight.

From the spot where I lay transfixed with surprise and delight, I
looked straight down into the bosom of a valley, which swept away
in long wavy undulations to the blue waters in the distance.  
Midway towards the sea, and peering here and there amidst the
foliage, might be seen the palmetto-thatched houses of its
inhabitants glistening in the sun that had bleached them to a
dazzling whiteness.  The vale was more than three leagues in
length, and about a mile across at its greatest width.

On either side it appeared hemmed in by steep and green
acclivities, which, uniting near the spot where I lay, formed an
abrupt and semicircular termination of grassy cliffs and
precipices hundreds of feet in height, over which flowed
numberless small cascades.  But the crowning beauty of the
prospect was its universal verdure; and in this indeed consists,
I believe, the peculiar charm of every Polynesian landscape.  
Everywhere below me, from the base of the precipice upon whose
very verge I had been unconsciously reposing, the surface of the
vale presented a mass of foliage, spread with such rich profusion
that it was impossible to determine of what description of trees
it consisted.

But perhaps there was nothing about the scenery I beheld more
impressive than those silent cascades, whose slender threads of
water, after leaping down the steep cliffs, were lost amidst the
rich herbage of the valley.

Over all the landscape there reigned the most hushed repose,
which I almost feared to break, lest, like the enchanted gardens
in the fairy tale, a single syllable might dissolve the spell.  
For a long time, forgetful alike of my own situation, and the
vicinity of my still slumbering companion, I remained gazing
around me, hardly able to comprehend by what means I had thus
suddenly been made a spectator of such a scene.


Herman Melville